Big food doin’s

I was fortunate enough to sample some of Momofuku chef David Chang’s dishes at the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium last October. Chang will be at Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Feb. 9 for a special dinner in honor of his new cookbook, “Momofuku.”  The nine-course dinner, with wine pairings, will begin with cocktails and appetizers at 6:30 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. Chang will talk about the menu and his book. The cost is $150 per person. For more information or to make reservations, call Lantern at (919) 969-8846. (Even without a special guest, Lantern is always worth a visit.)

If you’re looking for something fun to do for a great cause this Thursday, check out a wine tasting to benefit Interact of Raleigh, N.C. Interact assists victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and their children. Rally Point Sport Grill at 1837 N. Harrison Avenue in Cary, N.C. will hold a tasting of North Carolina and California wines with music by A Fifth of Blues. The event starts at 8 p.m. and is $10 per person. Organizers say that 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the organization.  For more information, visit here.

How to eat better in ’10

And your food will taste better, too. It’s easy: Join a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture. Different CSAs mayfresh lettuce from a CSA farm vary, but typically it means that you support a farm directly by purchasing shares in what that farm plans to grow. When spring comes, you get a beautiful box of fresh produce each week. Nice, huh?

This is the time of year that most farms have sign-up because now is when they need the money to prepare and plant all those good things. An excellent list of CSAs in North Carolina is at the Growing Small Farms website operated by the Chatham County Center of the Cooperative Extension Service. Most are small farms which grow sustainably or organically.

I can tell you all day long what a good thing it is to support small farmers, but the most important thing is flavor: The stuff just tastes good. In most cases, it was basking in the field just a few hours before it arrives to you.

If you’re considering enrolling in a CSA, here are some questions to consider:

Are you willing to accept the vagaries of Mother Nature? The winter CSA which I joined has not made deliveries for the past couple of weeks because of the unseasonably cold weather – the crops were too frozen and would thaw and rot on delivery. This ain’t the Teeter produce section, people.

Are you a creative cook? Some CSAs send emails with what to expect in your weekly share, but don’t forget that whimsical Mom Nature. Don’t be thrown if you’re expecting kale and get lettuce.

Is the pickup site convenient? Each CSA designates a location for participants to pick up their produce each week.

How many people do you feed? The size of shares vary with each CSA, so you’ll have to ask about the general size of each weekly share. Some offer half shares that are good for smaller families or couples, or two families could split a full share.

Is organic produce a priority? Talk with the farms you’re considering – they should be more than happy to discuss their growing practices.

Food news roundup

Food sections are trying to get us all revved up for the new year this week. In The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), writers and cooks (including your humble blogger) offer suggestions for revitalizing your eating. It’s all here.

Kathleen Purvis at The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer picks her great recipes of 2009. Go here and see if you agree – I think that smoked bourbon cocktail with bacon looks mighty enticing.

I love sweet potatoes, and North Carolina is the nation’s top producer of them – did y’all know that? The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal has a lovely-sounding recipe for Sweet Potato Bread here.

Ever wonder why restaurant reviewers don’t all weigh 500 pounds? I know many, and they are disgustingly svelte people. The Dallas Morning News’ reviewer discusses her “Restaurant Critic’s Diet” here.

Public policy and nutrition expert Marion Nestle turns her gaze toward hot-button food issues that will arise in 2010 in the San Francisco Chronicle, here.

More desserts

Sharp eyes have noticed that Hereghty Cafe has reopened at Glenwood Village in Raleigh after closing last year. It’s open Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Let the snarfing begin.

That’s some cupcake, cupcake

Cupcake by Crumb in RaleighI have to confess, the cupcake craze has not swept me along. I find that most have the wrong percentage of cake to frosting – about twice as much frosting as cake. Now, I have nothing against good frosting, but I want a bite of both each time. And cupcakes I’ve sampled from bakeries, until now, have seemed like just miniature cakes, not exploring the possibilities of the cupcake’s petite form.

Then, just before Christmas, a friend lured me to an unlikely cupcake locale: a corner of Designbox Gallery at 323 W. Martin Street in downtown Raleigh that was holding an annual holiday crafts sale. There, Shotbox offered coffee from Ty Beddingfield, the original owner of Third Place, and Rich Futrell of Durham’s Counter Culture Coffee. But the stars were cupcakes from Crumb, with bakers Carrie Gephart, formerly of the stellar Hayes Barton Dessertery (yes, the place behind the pharmacy at Five Points) and David Menestries.

I ordered a chocolate cupcake with chocolate mousse filling, and buttercream icing flavored with jalapeno and cilantro. This was a cupcake revelation. Just enough icing to enhance the cake without drowning it, with the cilantro adding a green-mint like flavor. The jalapeno provided a subtle jolt in the back of the throat. The cake was not too sweet (another beef I have with most cupcakes).

The blog at the Crumb website implies that the take-out operation may be back this month. Let’s all hope so. I hate that I missed the one with candied habanero buttercream and Patron tequila. If you want all the cupcakes to yourself, you can place orders through the website.